Sasami’s newest album, Squeeze, has been one of my favorites of 2022 so far and I absolutely LOVE the newer, heavier sound she has embraced on it. She is one of the artists that was at the very top of my list to see ASAP, so when I discovered I had a conflict with her recent Brooklyn show, I was completely crestfallen to have to miss it. I figured that was that and I’d just have to wait until her next tour. Then I saw videos of one of her explosive performances at SXSW and knew I absolutely had to find a way to make it happen. As luck would have it, I saw she was in Philly the next night (I had originally thought it was Boston which was too far to get to and back in one day) and that I was definitely free. My excitement returned and I made the two hour drive down to Philly.
I’d long heard the name Johnny Brenda’s but had never gone so I was happy to get a chance to check it out. It’s a small room with a little bit of a speakeasy vibe to it, perfect for dinner downstairs and a show afterwards with an intimate feel. After a brief snafu with a patron and a lit candle that caused a temporary evacuation of the room, the fire department gave the all clear and the show proceeded. (Kudos to the venue staff for handling things calmly and professionally. And thankfully the patron was not seriously injured.) Powerviolence band Zulu opened the show and played a blisteringly intense set of heavy, searing riffs that had the room shaking.
Sasami did not leave fans waiting long and came to the stage ready to shred. As I mentioned, I am really loving the new direction her sound has taken into heavier, chuggier territory, and if I love the record, I was absolutely blown away seeing it performed live. She put on a powerhouse performance that she said she hoped achieved “maximum chaos per capita.” Along with her backing band, they hit every song on the album except for “Tried To Understand,” which is one of the most subdued tracks so it was understandable to leave it out in the live setting. Including two songs from her self titled 2019 album, “Not The Time,” and “Pacify My Heart,” both of these songs were given a harder edge than their recorded counterparts.
My personal highlights were “Skin A Rat,” (a song that gives me some delightful Two Ton Boa vibes) and the electro industrial-ish “Say It,” (also one of my favorites from the album) which saw Sasami put down her guitar to dance and rock out on the mic. She also incorporated her System of A Down cover, “Toxicity,” into the set. Originally released in 2020, in the live setting of 2022, she took it from her gentle acoustic arrangement that appears on the recorded single back to its harder and heavier roots.
I’m at shows almost every night of the week for work and this blog and truth be told, after a while, many nights tend to run together and even become ordinary, so it takes something exciting and special to keep me thinking about it long after I head home. This was most definitely one of those shows that has stayed in the forefront of my mind, with vivid details on a loop ever since I left and headed home to New York; it will be a huge standout when I look back at the best live experiences of 2022. It was no ordinary night and Sasami Ashworth is no ordinary artist, rather one of the most dynamic, electrifying songwriters/performers currently making indie music. I am so happy I got to see her in this setting because I’m sure she will not be playing rooms of this size for much longer and is poised to continue to ascend to bigger and bigger stages. I for one can’t wait to see what she does next and where her trajectory takes her.
Full performance from Pomona, CA
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)